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Itís going to be an exciting 6 months for DC area transit

When the new Rosslyn Metro entrance opened earlier this week, it became the first in what will be an exciting string of big transit projects opening in the DC region. Still to come: Metro, MARC, streetcars, and BRT.

From left to right: Alexandria's BRT, MARC, Silver Line, DC streetcar.
BRT and Metro photos from Alexandria and Fairfax County.
MARC and streetcar photos from BeyondDC.

The next big event will be on December 7, when MARC trains begin running on weekends between DC and Baltimore. MARC's transition from a commuter railroad to a more general-purpose transit system will open up Baltimore and other parts of Maryland like never before.

After that come streetcars. Sometime in late December, or possibly January, DDOT expects to start running streetcars along H Street. Then in February, the Silver Line will open, and begin carrying passengers to Tysons Corner and Wiehle Avenue.

Finally, sometime in the spring of 2014 Alexandria will open its Route 1 transitway, marking the beginning of the first bona fide bus rapid transit line in the region. All together, it's the most exciting time for transit openings in the DC area since the early 1980s, when Metrorail was opening new segments every few months.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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I'm still waiting for WMATA to provide just a range of possible opening dates for the Silver line. At this point I don't believe they've even been willing to state directly that it's not opening in 2013.

by Gray on Oct 9, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport


WMATA seems focused on extending the Silver line to Largo because there isn't enough space at Stadium Armory to accommodate 8 car trains. Why does metro need to run 8 car trains on the Silver?

Running shorter trains would solve that problem and the problem of not having enough cars available to support breakdowns. After WMATA gets more cars in 3 or 4 years, then they can run 8 car trains.

by Randall M. on Oct 9, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

@Randall M.:
WMATA seems focused on extending the Silver line to Largo because there isn't enough space at Stadium Armory to accommodate 8 car trains.
Where did you read that? I think you're referencing the quasi-summary given in some places, but here's the relevant issue from the Post:
Adding to the difficulty, the pocket track is among the shortest in the system. Although it can accommodate an eight-car train, Metro officials determined that turning trains would require a level of precision difficult for all but the most skilled operators. In addition, trains would have to slow as they approach the switch, which would have a ripple effect for other trains along the route.
So I believe that while the track could accommodate 8 car trains, it would be difficult to turn even 6 car trains.

But regardless:

(1) Silver line trains are effectively acting as orange/blue through the downtown core, so it would be bad to be stuck with this limitation, and
(2) I believe that they need to go to Largo so that service levels on that end of the Blue line don't drop below the minimum allowed.

by Gray on Oct 9, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

The new 7000 series cars are married quads. That means that you can either run as a 4 or 8-car train, not a 6. We should be seeing a lot more 8-car trains in the future as over half of Metro's total rail stock is replaced.

by Adam L on Oct 9, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Adam seems to be spot-on about the 4-car married units:

by Rich S on Oct 9, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

Weekend BWI and Baltimore - Washington are key here. I bet most people will still take Metro into the city due to the schedule and savings.

by BTA on Oct 9, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

7000 series are married pairs, but only one of the two cars has a cab so they will be run in sets of 4 so there is a cab at each end.

by MLD on Oct 9, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

@ Gray, I see your points, considering that they are doing away with the rush plus orange. Thanks.

@Adam L, I was under the impression that the bulk of those new cars wouldn't come for another 3 year or so. If we are short on railcars now, I didn't see the logic in over extending to meet a demand that wasn't their yet.

by Randall M. on Oct 9, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

We're fairly excited here in Groveton and Route 1, with the meeting tonight at the Govt Center about the Multimodal Study, and the anticipation of the results of the centerline study for the mass transit decision.

by Jay Roberts on Oct 9, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

When you say 7000 series only run as either 8-car or 4-car trains, are you saying they'll actually run some 4-car trains? Or will everything just be 8?

by jh on Oct 9, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Weekend BWI and Baltimore - Washington are key here. I bet most people will still take Metro into the city due to the schedule and savings.

Not sure what you mean by most people will still take the Metro. The only stations served by MARC Penn Line and the Metro are New Carrollton and Union Station. I would imagine that if anyone wanted to go between those two pairs on the weekend they might consider the MARC, because it will do the trip in 10 minutes as opposed to 40 minutes and only costs $.75 more. For just getting downtown from New Carrollton, in which some combination of MARC and Metro would be needed then yes they would probably take just Metro

by Richard B on Oct 9, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

One of the new Rosslyn elevators was already out of order yesterday. Oops.

Word has it that the issue with the Stadium-Armory pocket track has less to do with its length and operator skill and more to do with Central Control's (in)ability to correctly interline them in the same place where two lines are diverging and converging.

It will be very interesting to see how the streetcar does. I think its success as a party bus/H Street nightlife access service is pretty much guaranteed, but rush hour performance in particular will bear close scrutiny.

by Dizzy on Oct 9, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport


You know the shutdown is getting really bad when WMATA starts running four-car trains.

Seriously though, they'll all be eight car trains. It's just that 7000 series cars are multiples of four, instead of multiples of two. So WMATA could do a four car train, if it wanted, but it won't.

by Jared Christian on Oct 9, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

I was going to read the article about the 7000 series cars, but the I saw it was written in April 2010, 42 long months ago, and then I just got pissed that metro is slow at everything under the sun. Hard to get excited over anything with our second-rate transportation system.

Good luck to those of you who believe the silver line will be operating in February.

by MJ on Oct 9, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

That wasn't a dig at MARC but the trains are running on average every 2 hours or so. I doubt most people are going to plan around that to possibly save 40 minutes or so round trip. But I could see good airport use and intercity travel and I'm sure a few people along the . Also it might do well if there is a bad trackwork weekend on that side of the Orange Line. I just meant I could see the majority of ridership being in one of those first two categories.

by BTA on Oct 9, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

That wasn't entirely WMATA's fault, MJ. The 2011 Tsunami in Japan caused a major supply chain disruption on getting the train cars delivered on time.

by BTA on Oct 9, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport


Thanks for the clarification. So that means Metro could still run 6-car trains, which is good to know.

by Adam L on Oct 9, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

Exciting times!

by h st ll on Oct 9, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

I'm excited for the Crystal City/Potomac Yard BRT.

by Fitz on Oct 9, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

Maybe this was already addressed in a previous post, but aside from the 7000-series trains and the new Silver Line, is there any sort of project overview for maintenance and upgrades Metro is planning in the next 10 years or so? I'm looking for an equivalent to Transport for London's "Tube Improvement Plan" that lists all the upgrades to the various lines:

by Jon on Oct 9, 2013 6:53 pm • linkreport

@Adam L: the operational complexities of rearranging single-cab pairs means that they won't break up the quads unless they really have to. (E.g., for major repairs.)

by Mike on Oct 9, 2013 7:00 pm • linkreport

@Jon: they'll be planning the mid-life upgrades for the 5000 series, and designing the 8000 series to replace the 2000 and 3000 series. (Both of those were supposed to be done this decade, I don't know how the schedule slips for the 7000s affects that.) Metro mostly sucks at communication, so I'm not aware of anything as nice as the web page for the underground.

by Mike on Oct 9, 2013 7:05 pm • linkreport

It'll be great to see MARC service between WAS and BAL on the weekends. However, I wish that they had some weekend service on the Brunswick line. Even if they only had three to four trains per day--one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, on in the late afternoon/early evening, and one around maybe 10 PM or so, it would be an improvement. Maybe they could run it from Germantown to DC and back. I think they would get patronage from the northern Montgomery County suburbs for that.

As for the DC Streetcar, while I am glad that it is opening, I wish that the initial segment had gone all the way to the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station. Then it could have served as a bypass for those who wanted to go out to eastern end of the Orange Line without having to go through Metro Center.

by Rain17 on Oct 10, 2013 12:32 am • linkreport

God, this is absolutely depressing. What are we celebrating, exactly?

- A heavy rail line that just contributes more to core crowding and doesn't even serve the airport.
- A streetcar that runs in mixed traffic (e.g., a slower bus) and doesn't even connect properly with Metrorail.
- A commuter rail that will now run on weekends with 2-3 hour headways.
- A new bus route that parallels an existing Metro line.

Jesus, what happened to this country? Remember when we actually built useful things? And had vision and ideas? Rather than this watered-down crap?

by MetroDerp on Oct 10, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

The streetcars on H st. are a "Luxury mass transit" option, that doesn't address any particular problem. Yes, They have spurred economic development on 10-15 blocks at a cost that still has not been fully calculated.

They will also spur more conjunctions, they DDOT and all the urban planning experts have estimated it will relieve. And just imagine the delay when the first dumb-ass on a bike (not saying that all bikers are dumb-ass, so not need to protect you biker buddies) or drunk-ass gets run over falling out of a bar onto the tracks by the streetcars.

Oh, and the streetcars have a flawed design in which; "you can't get there from here, nor can you get here from there". Because they only go back and forth on H st.

by Jeff on Oct 10, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

"God, this is absolutely depressing. What are we celebrating, exactly?
- A heavy rail line that just contributes more to core crowding and doesn't even serve the airport."

A heavy rail line that will serve a place that is the second largest employment center in the region and perhaps the most important retail center in the region, and which will not provide an important option to people going and to and from that location, but will help to transform it into a walkable urban place, perhaps the most dramatic such transformation in North America.

"- A streetcar that runs in mixed traffic (e.g., a slower bus) and doesn't even connect properly with Metrorail."

A streetcar whose promise has already led to redevelopment of a neighborhood so devasted by the riots that a suburban style shopping center was in improvement, into one of the hottest neighborhoods on the east coast. That same streetcar is bringing this mode back to DC after a generation long absence, and is the first piece of a 37 mile system

"- A commuter rail that will now run on weekends with 2-3 hour headways."

A commuter line that already provides very important transportation on weekdays will now provide it on weekends as well, the first weekend commuter rail service in the region, and the beginning of the turning to commuter rail in this area into genuine regional rail

"- A new bus route that parallels an existing Metro line."

A dedicated right of way, in a place where bus service is already important, that will provide superior local service that metro cannot, and will accelerate the development of what is already an area with 20% of households car free.

So much to celebrate!!!

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 10, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

"not only provide"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 10, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

The streetcars on H st. are a "Luxury mass transit" option, that doesn't address any particular problem.

Except for the capacity problems for the buses on H Street which are pretty maxed out.

by drumz on Oct 10, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

its not only baltimore, BWI and new carrolton that will get this weekend service, but seabrook, bowie state, and odenton, IIUC. What will it mean for them?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 10, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

@AWITC - Actually the weekend service will not stop at Seabrook due to to its proximity to New Carrollton. The weekend schedule is available at

by Brian on Oct 10, 2013 9:18 pm • linkreport


Odenton and Bowie get weekend service then. And Odenton seems to be furthest along in TOD.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 11, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

Re: the H Street streetcar.

Considering the torn up street and partially-laid track I saw at the foot of the Hopscotch Bridge just last Sunday, the probability that will be running "late December, or possibly January" is about as likely as direct flights from Dulles to the moon.

And I'm saying this as someone who wants the streetcar so spare me the flames.

by ceefer66 on Oct 11, 2013 5:53 pm • linkreport

(2) I believe that they need to go to Largo so that service levels on that end of the Blue line don't drop below the minimum allowed.
If that's the case, then the entire Blue Line has now dropped below the minimum level of service allowed.

In fact, if I'm understanding the post-Silver scheduling breakdown correctly, the Blue Line will now be the only line that actually loses trains during the peak periods instead of gaining trains. You can argue until you're blue (heh) in the face that Silver to Largo and Yellow to Franconia-Springfield and the glut of extra Orange/Silver trains between Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory mean that Blue Stations other than Arlington aren't "really" below the minimum service level - but that's a false argument no matter how many times people preach it.

Get ready for Blue Crush between Rosslyn and Pentagon. Oops, wait, that's right, those people can just grab an Orange/Silver train all the way into Downtown, switch to one of the Yellow trains, and ride all the way out. It might even be faster than the 40-minute 2-seat bus ride option, if they're lucky!

The fact of the matter is, Metro doesn't care about the minimum service levels. If they cared about the minimum service levels, Silver would be terminating in New Carrollton (which makes far more sense as a terminal than Largo) and only getting 8 trains, with Orange and Blue keeping 9 each. For that matter, if Metro cared about being honest and forthcoming, they would have routed Silver up to New Carrollton anyway and admitted that Blue Line headways were going to be crippled by Silver to the detriment of every station on either outer end.

Metro doesn't care, which is why they keep lying to the riding public about minimum service levels and spreading the myth that "almost everyone benefits from increased service to Orange and Silver" coming at the direct cost of adequate service on the Blue Line. Look forward to the Blue Line being the first Metrorail line to fall victim to budget/service cuts within the next ten years, if it isn't Rush Plused out of existence before that can happen.

by Ryan on Oct 11, 2013 10:48 pm • linkreport


Who ever told you that not using D&G pocket track has more to do with "(in)ability to correctly interline" is blowing smoke up your butt.

Interlockings are automatically set by the trains destination code. Destination codes are assigned to the trains by the train control computer at the origin terminal based on the manually set train number.

Destination codes 30, 36, 66 along with a yet to be assigned code for the Silver line will put an eastbound trains into the D&G pocket track.

A schedule table is used to set the turnouts and clear the signals for trains ready to depart westbound from the pocket track. The schedule table used is the same type of table used to dispatch inbound trains from the line end terminals.

View the D&G pocket track the same way as you would view the pocket track north of Mount Vernon Square. The fact that the pocket track is between stations as opposed being adjacent to a station is irreverent, the same also applies to the fact that the junction is adjacent to the east end of the pocket track.

by Sand Box John on Oct 12, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

I was reading the article from April 2010 about the 7000 cars to which Rich linked, and I couldn't stop chuckling at Matt Johnson's comment there:

"1076 was widowed (divorced?) at Woodley Park. I don't think it has a purpose at the moment."

I wonder if they painted a pair of sad eyes on the front of the car?

by Frank IBC on Oct 13, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

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